Harmony

How often have you heard someone say that they seek to find balance in their lives? I would guess quite often, and I think the idea is a noble one. When we say we seek to find balance, we might mean that we are trying to keep grounded in the midst of difficulty, or that we are trying not to spend too much time in any one facet of our lives, like our work. Perhaps we are referring to our emotional state, and finding a place of peace and quietude inside of us. Or, we are trying to ensure that our own and our partner’s needs are met equally.

Again, I stress that this is a very noble pursuit and one which is probably lifelong for most of us. But, I challenge us to think of this concept of balance in a different way, and so replacing the idea of balance with harmony.

I know I’m not the first to say this, because this idea came up in my life years ago in conversation with someone close to me. What resulted from a beautiful and profound conversation was that balance is not what we should or can seek, for a few reasons.

I’ll begin to explain my point by providing a visual: what do you imagine when you picture a scale in balance? The two sides of the scale sit precisely across from one another, neither higher nor lower. When the scale comes perfectly into balance, there is no movement. And, as long as nothing touches the scale, and no weight is added or taken away from either side, the scale will remain in balance forevermore.

Life is not like a scale. Day by day, even hour by hour, circumstances and environments change. We are impacted by other people, the weather, our own internal physiological workings, and many other conditions often out of our control. Because of this, we can never truly have life technically in balance, nor should we want it to be I’d argue, as this alludes to a lack of growth and change.

Furthermore, change is good for us, most of the time, even when we don’t like it. And when something changes within us or around us, it will impact other areas of our being or our life as well. The idea is to remain in a state of harmony as much as we can, even when our life is changing, and even when those changes challenge us. Harmony, in this context, means there is accord, peace, synchronicity. We find ways to move with the change of our lives, allowing change or even negative circumstances to stimulate us to grow.

This can be applied back to the ideas we often hear discussed about finding balance. For example, if we are busy in our work life and wish to find ways to protect our personal time too, we find strategies to ensure that where one day might be overrun with work, another day might be dedicated to play. It is not the ratio of work to play that matters, it is rather important that each of our needs are adequately met, whatever that looks like for each of us. We are all different in this respect and as long as we are not anxious, resentful or excessively fatigued by the proportion, we can find a way to feel harmony with the manner in which our life is composed. Likewise in relationships, there will always be compromise, but if both parties work at meeting each other’s needs and both feel at peace with what they are giving and receiving emotionally, physically and spiritually, it is immaterial that the quantity of give and take be exactly equal. I think we would all agree that in enjoying life, quality is more important than quantity and the joy we receive from quality relationships and experiences is immeasurable.

In my own life, part of seeking harmony is in being content with current circumstances without having to actively change them, and change them quickly. Rather, I am working at living within them and choosing to let them impact me, help me grow and consciously making an effort to ensure present circumstances are as positive and joyful as possible for all those involved. As with any self-reflection and self-improvement challenge, this isn’t easy, particularly when we start out in discord with whatever is happening in our lives, but this presents an enormous growth opportunity. I have the chinese characters for harmony tattooed on my forearm, placed there shortly after the aforementioned conversation that started this thought process rolling years ago.

This isn’t to say that many times we must choose to change our circumstances (relationships, jobs, finances, living situation) in order to bring about positive change, but sometimes we simply do not have immediate control or cannot act quickly. If you are looking for continuous growth, movement and peace in your life, then I challenge you to think about harmony, rather than balance, as one of the keys to happiness.

Breaking Day

Morning breaks gently,

As late winter’s sleepy sunrise

Streams eagerly through my window.

The cold night is curtailed;

My bedroom warmed from the outside.

 

Peace abides in me, solitary;

Silent and unmoving, undisturbed.

The choice is mine to be free,

In this instant and all that follow,

To warm myself from the inside.

Sunset over Heaven

Soaring high above the earth,
Ephemeral, rippling clouds collect densely
And appear like vast, snowy fields.
The sun sets on the dimming horizon,
Illuminating the clouds with a multi-hued glow.
The interminable sky is painted deep amber,
Transitory in its impassioned radiance.
Removed from the world below,
A deep peace is captured within;
Fleeting, perhaps, as darkness supersedes the light,
Yet heavenly in the moment.

Freedom

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Freedom is a state of mind, not ordinarily an actual reality. We can feel free rather than exist freely. Our current world, which we have created for ourselves and others, intentionally or inadvertently but mostly as a result of irresponsibility, makes true freedom impossible. In some parts of the world, people fight for physical freedom: from slavery, forced prostitution, oppression and abuse of various kinds. In North America, we also subsist tied to society’s ideals and anchors: our phones, televisions, magazines and computers. We live by the news, our neighbours’ judgments, the size of our houses and genitalia. I would argue that I’m not the worst of offenders and generally carry around a positive attitude and only healthy concern for others’ opinions of me. But, am I free?

I find joy in freedom (who doesn’t), but I also enjoy responsibility; in my career, my family, my education. I am conscientious, reliable and typically loyal, and I thrive on accountability. I respect authority and hierarchy where necessary. I excel, given deadlines. Perhaps this makes me seem like an inherent dichotomy, and so be it.

So, during a two week vacation to BC and the Yukon, I had lofty goals of completing unreasonable amounts of work in the “off-hours”, and while I did do some good work, I found myself with a strong desire to just BE. Excuse me if that sounds like a cliché, but it’s as accurate a description of what I was pining for as I can come up with.

The drive from Whitehorse, Yukon to Atlin, British Columbia is idyllic. The evergreen trees are densely packed, a sea of deep shades of green, as dark and healthy as I’ve ever seen. The road meanders endlessly, taking you further and further from civilization. Atlin Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in BC, extends on the right, glassy and calm. Mountain after mountain reaches into the sapphire sky, steadfast and determined to dwarf everything surrounding it. It is there that you feel the world slip away, leaving you isolated and solitary. It is precisely that feeling which I was eager for.

Visiting family, I sat alone, perched on the edge of a rail-less upper deck, overlooking Atlin Lake and the Coastal Mountains. I felt free. For a few minutes, there was nothing else in the world but me, the placid water, the astounding mountains and the warm sun gilding the entire picture. For a few moments, freedom felt like a reality, inchoate. And then, it was interrupted by children shouting and playing, and lighthearted adults enjoying the esprit de corps and a grand meal. Those sounds bring joy in and of themselves, but a different feeling altogether. I felt disappointed not to have enjoyed that freedom a little longer, and for a moment was even irritated. I returned to the large group and enjoyed the rest of the evening immensely. I watched my son play with his “new-to-him” cousins and again, felt a different kind of delight and ease.

This trip brought much time for fun, and also contemplation and quiet. I thought I would write all about each place we visited but I didn’t feel the draw. I felt rather inspired to quiet my mind and in that, I found freedom. I realized that I seek and acquire freedom in many ways, by choice alone. The reality of life is that freedom, at least the way I define it, is impossible as a corporeal, daily existence. There is a big difference between outer and inner freedom and these are not interdependent. With the right attitude and a choice to be present in those miraculous and ecstatic moments, I can maximize the experience of wonderful liberty.

I write (at times) to set free pent-up feelings and desires. I am quiet in order to abandon the bustle of everyday life. I find ease and purity in the laughter of my son. I take risks to pursue liberation from routine. I lose myself in the writing of others. I’m taken to far-off places in savouring decadent foods. I push myself professionally and academically in a self-determined avoidance of mediocrity. I discover freedom in my intellectual pursuits, in pleasure, in pain and in innovation. Freedom blooms inside as I nurture my imagination, my spirituality, my sensuality, my femininity, my style, my uniqueness. I am liberated in seizing opportunities to show kindness, sincerity, and hospitality. I feel released in being a source of pleasure to those I care for. Most of all, I’m free when, with attention to morality, I act authentically and put aside any concerns separate from the current experience. Inner freedom, for me, comes too with letting go of fear. This inner freedom, detached from circumstance, is something I’ll continually strive for, fail at acquiring, and attempt again and again.

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Road for One

Feet hit the pavement
Firmly, Rhythmically.
Breaths and steps in unison
Compose a song-like tempo
And a trance-like focus.

I melt into myself,
My mind, my body.
Living a simple purpose:
Harmony in adrenaline flows,
Equilibrium despite antithesis.

Beauty spoken through movement.
Distances travelled unacknowledged.
Fortitude stretched to transcendence.
Tension released absolutely.
Joy discovered in the journey.

Warm, Loved.

With face pointed to the sky I bask, enjoying the luxurious warmth of the sun on my golden skin. It’s as if the heat gets underneath; penetrating my core and warming me from the inside-out. My heartbeat slows, my breathing relaxes, my muscles calm. I create moveable artwork behind closed eyes; a myriad of vibrant colours dancing on the backs of my eyelids. There is no sound but the crashing of waves onto the expanse of fine sand; no voices can be heard, not even in the distance. In this moment, I am unaffected by any circumstance, notion or person. This solitude is healing. I am still, confident, and bare. I am untouched by the world. In this perfect state I am exposed yet loved, accepted and whole. I can but dream that this peace and splendor would last forever.